This past Sunday I attended a meaningless affair starring the San Diego Padres and the Miami Marlins. Both languorous teams are in no position to make the playoffs this season, rendering this game virtually inconsequential. I trekked to Marlins Park for the promoted rubber match of James Shields versus Jose Fernandez. The matchup did not disappoint. Each pitcher made it through six innings, Shields allowing two runs and Fernandez allowing none with ten strikeouts. The win looked assured for the Marlins until A.J. Ramos allowed a two-run home run to Alexi Amarista in the top of the ninth. I feared defeat for the hometown Marlins, being the second lowest scoring team in the majors. To make matters grimmer, we were going into the near bottom of the mostly feeble lineup. My fears, though justified, were to my great relief allayed when the eighth batter, Adeiny Hechavarria, launched a three-run home run, his fifth home run of the season and first walk-off hit of any kind in his career. To demonstrate the occasional unfairness of baseball, Ramos — not Fernandez — was credited with the win.
This was the first walk-off homerun I ever had the pleasure of witnessing at the Ballpark, and it was glorious. Though a quarter of the fans had already left, those who remained were ecstatic. Though the Marlins were 20 games below .500, we were still elated. A walk-off home run offers much greater joy than a simple walk-off hit ever could. In a “normal” walk-off, if such a phrase is allowed, the hitter will run to first or maybe second, and at least one runner will cross the plate. The excitement seems somewhat … feigned. Can a single or a double really be that exciting in a non-playoff situation? With a home run the situation alters. A home run is, of course, an inherently exciting event. In a walk-off situation, that excitement multiplies. The hitter runs home in a euphoric bliss unequaled by any other phenomenon on the regular-season diamond. It is the only event in baseball that ends with a bang. The players gather at home plate as if greeting a man returning from a long journey, and the fans jump up and down in accordance with players, accompanying a feeling of unbridled joy.
If this is the only walk-off home run I ever have the great fortune to attend, it will still be enough.
For your viewing pleasure, and because I don’t tire of watching it, here is unimpeachably the greatest walk-off hit of any variety.